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More Thoughts on Observer-relativity…

After today’s class I started to think more about this observer-relativity. According to the definition, something is observer-relative if it would not exist if minds did not exist. Or that the something COULD still exist (I think this version is more valid). In the example, the syntactical properties of the Rocky Mountains would disappear if minds did not exist – although the physicality of the mountains could still exist, as the mountains are mind-independent.

But, what I was thinking about was: by the word “mind” are we speaking of “consciousness”? The traditional dualist view of consciousness states that there is an external world influencing internal subjective experiences. So, a continuation of the example: The objective external mountains cause a conscious internal observer-relative syntactical reaction of creating the words “The Rocky Mountains”.

It has been argued that thought (and therefore, at least primitive intelligence) can exist independent of consciousness (as, for example, when we drive home without thinking about it). So, if for observer-relativity if we were to equate “mind” with “consciousness” we would be saying that we can still be intelligent without having a concept of syntax?

If some ‘thing’ is observer-relative:
P1. The mind is needed for a ‘thing’ to exist.
P2. The mind equates to consciousness.
P3. Consciousness is not a requirement for thought (intelligence).
C. Therefore, the mind is not a requirement for thought (intelligence).

This in itself seems very problematic for me (and my ingrained dualist attitudes).

If a subjective mind is not a requirement for intelligence, then this is very good news for the field of artificial intelligence – as they could fashion a functional physical brain without the worry of this “additional” mind. We would no longer need to struggle with the dualist viewpoint.

I’m not sure where to go with this – whether observer-relativity is the problem, or consciousness dualism is the problem. OR if there is any problem at all… besides the fact that dualism pretty much self-defeats in this thought-experiment… and that observer-relativity does not seem to work without dualism..?

Regardless, it seems as though McDermott has the right idea with an objective computer…

I need to think about this some more and derive a proper conclusion – my “mind” is just exhausted right now. I have a slight feeling that my argument isn’t completely sound (it seems a little circular…).


  1. October 2, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    The first premise of my argument is extraneous to the results. My conclusion does not necessitate the inclusion of premise one – nor does it depend on it in any way. That alone, I think, severs any connection that could be formed between observer-relativity and consciousness.

    My argument was self-defeated.


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